Bob Geldof and the BBC have unveiled plans for a website and television series that aim to record every human society.
The idea for Bob Geldof's website came from a meeting in Niger.
The Dictionary of Man website and an eight-part television series, The Human Planet, will be made with help from BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm.
Crews will travel the world to try to film the 900 separate groups of people that anthropologists believe exist.
The makers hope the project will produce a definitive record of mankind.
'Family photo album'
Announcing plans for the website at a conference in Cannes, Geldof said: "This will be an A to Z of mankind which will catalogue the world we live in now, the people who share this planet, the way we live and the way we adapt to face common and different challenges."
He added: "Ultimately I suppose in some ways we're also building the world's family photo album."
The website aims to use the latest social networking technologies to allow individuals around the world to trace the history of their clan, tribe or family as well as contacting living members.
Geldof said it would create the largest ever living record of DVDs, books, films, photographs, art, and documented and personal accounts from people in every group in society.
The BBC will, in tandem, produce a television series, The Human Planet, with the Natural History Unit, BBC Bristol Features and Documentaries and BBC Wales.
Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, said: "The Human Planet promises to be spectacular television.
"It will give us the chance to meet and understand the people who share our planet in a way we've never seen them before."
She added: "In joining forces with Bob Geldof, we have one of the world's foremost humanitarians as an ally as we create a legacy for both current and future generations."
The idea for the website came from a meeting in Niger 20 years ago.
Geldof said he was sitting on a tree stump in Northern Niger with a regional governor who told him that 300 different languages had disappeared in two years during the famine.
The singer and campaigner said: "Even though I never heard those languages, I already miss them. In these ways the lights of human genius wink out."
From then on, he said, he was determined to record "all those sounds, voices and jokes so they never disappear again".